Orange, France’s largest telecoms company, could be moving into Nigeria soon. The firm’s captains intend to launch in what is Africa’s largest telecoms market in a matter of months.
Its impending entry into Nigeria is part of a wider strategy to capture large swathes of Africa’s demand for quality mobile communications services. It also wants a stake in South Africa, the continent’s second-biggest market for mobile networks.
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Stephane Richard, CEO of Orange, hinted at this in an interview. Speaking to France’s Les Echos newspaper, he suggested that the company would need “a few months” to make a proper entry into the markets they were eyeing.
Orange currently serves over 260 million customers in 18 countries. While it has a firm base in Europe and the Middle East, Africa is its fastest-growing market. Much of its presence on the continent has been in French-speaking countries and a few English-speaking states like Kenya and Botswana.
Now, the company senses an opportunity to gain from the rapidly growing demand for mobile technology elsewhere in Africa, especially in the continent’s two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa.
It is, however, not clear how Orange plans to get into these markets. Fairly recently, it has acquired the operations of Airtel, another telecoms giant, in various parts of Africa. But it could also go the route of a direct introduction of its brand to the people in its new target territories.
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While Nigeria has a high mobile teledensity (well over 90%), smartphone usage is still only a lesser fraction of the more than 190 million mobile phone lines in the country. Many Nigerians are also dissatisfied with the service delivery of the current market players. That’s a lot of incentive for a new entrant to get involved.
If Orange does become a direct player in Nigeria’s telecoms industry, it may face some of the challenges that already existing companies face in the country. It will have to surmount considerable infrastructure challenges while keeping its operating costs low enough to serve a population that expects lower tariffs from it.
Back in 2017, Orange had attempted to gain inroads into Nigerian telecoms by investing in the financially troubled Etisalat Nigeria.
While the present move has not yet materialized, there’s a chance that its coming will drive competition in the telecoms industry and lead to improvements in the quality of service rendered by telecoms firms.
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